Studio Zhu-Pei designs the Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum evoking active and tangible memories, the design proof of how ancient techniques can be reinterpreted and reread in a contemporary key…
Jingdezhen is known as the “Porcelain Capital” in the world because it has been producing pottery for 1,700 years. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jingdezhen exported a huge amount of porcelains to Europe.
Situated on a restricted historical area adjacent to the east side of the Imperial Kiln ruins, the plan of the Imperial Kiln Museum is aligned with the north-south street grid of Jingdezhen. The Museum comprises more than half a dozen brick vaults based on the traditional form of the kiln, each vault of a different size, curvature, and length, carefully integrated with the existing ruins.
The unparalleled, liner, and arched structures of the museum, like old kilns, reach below the level of the street not just to adapt to the complicated site, but also to achieve the intimate scale of interior space. The materials of the museum are dominated by bricks, where recycled old kiln bricks are mixed with new bricks to reflect the local culture of construction.
The interweaving of two different historical phases proposed by the combination of new and old bricks arouses interest, curiosity, creates new questions, and gives new answers. It creates interaction with people’s minds who inevitably evoke memories and enjoy a unique experience. The past cannot be erased but can be rewritten by recounting a new awareness and maturity, a sort of contemporary archaeology.
This strategy – in part also as a response to the height of surrounding historical buildings – leads to productive ambiguity in relation to the building’s horizontal datum. The “insertion” of the building into the ground of the site produces a series of public spaces at street level. More importantly, it allows for the design of several more intimate open vaults, and courtyards within the museum.
While most of these public spaces are shaded, the series of exhibition spaces are arched, lightly varying in size and with contradicting openness (enclosed or open to the sky) to encounter a gentle stair, in the end, flowing down to the underground level with five themed sunken courtyards (gold, wood, water, fire, soil), creating manifold layers of experiences with ancient bricks on the façade. These not only reflect old Chinese thinking about the earth but also associate with porcelain making techniques. Together, the bookstore, cafe, tearoom, and finally reach a semi-outdoor area under the arch, witnessing a picturesque scene.
The interior natural light is achieved by both skylight and sunken courtyard and is inspired by smoke holes of the ancient brick kiln. The skylight in the hollow cylinder shape is distributed on the top part of the arch to provide natural light during daytime and artificial light at night.
The visitors can have a 360-degree sensory experience through the repeated contact between exterior and interior that stimulates the touch, smell, hearing, and sight and transports them into a sort of trip between past, present, and nature.
Project Name: Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum
Client: Jingdezhen Municipal Bureau of Culture Radio Television Press Publication and Tourism, Jingdezhen Ceramic Culture Tourism Group
Architecture, Interior and Landscape Design: Studio Zhu-Pei
Cooperative Design: Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tsinghua University
Design in Charge: Zhu Pei
Design Team: You Changchen, Han Mo, He Fan, Shuhei Nakamura, Liu Ling, Wu Zhigang, Zhang Shun, Du Yang, Yang Shengchen, Chen Yida, He Chenglong, Ding Xinyue
Area: 10,370 sq. m.
Location: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China
Photography credits: schranimage, Tian Fangfang, Zhang Qinquan, courtesy of Studio Zhu-Pei
Text credits: v2com